Credit: Con Chronis / Jayco Herald Sun Tour
It’s a rare treat to catch Novocastrian Jesse Ewart racing in Australia, but the Team Sapura cyclist made sure he caught attention of many with an excellent ride to finish sixth overall at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
Ewart was close to matching it with the best at the Herald Sun Tour, finishing sixth overall on the back of strong performances on the two summit finishes of Falls Creek and Mt Buller. The Team Sapura rider was the second last rider dropped on the ascent to Falls Creek and then was the only one apart from Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) that was able to initially follow Seb Berwick’s (St George Continental) powerful surge in the final kilometres of Mt Buller.
Australian Cycling Insider caught up with Ewart just before the final stage of the race.
“Yesterday (Stage 4 up to Mt Buller) I got caught out a little bit,” said Ewart. “I was a bit too far back when he (Berwick) went. I just tried to go all out there for the finish and the win and just didn’t have it in the end.”
Ewart was fifth on overall standings before the stage, but had to contend with Jay Vine (Nero Continental) sitting on the same time as him, only split on the general classification by stage finishing countback.
“Fifth on GC for the moment,” said Ewart. “Jay Vine got the bonus seconds on the line when he came around me there. I assume he’ll be out there for the breakaway and bonus seconds or something. I’ll take a top 5 GC, I’m happy and the team will be happy with that.”
Ewart was correct in his assumption of Vine attacking, and while he did the right thing and watched Vine like a hawk, following the Canberran’s attack in to the early break, it wasn’t quite enough. Vine outsprinted Ewart at both intermediate sprints to relegate Ewart to sixth overall.
Ewart and Vine were surprise results for many, but for Ewart himself, he had confidence in his own ability to match with a field including four World Tour squads.
“I didn’t think it was unachievable,” said Ewart. “I knew I was a lot fitter coming in this year than the last couple of times I’ve done the Sun Tour. I had a bit of a leadership role for the race and I wanted to make the most of it. The podium would have been awesome, but I’ll take top 5.”
The race almost didn’t happen at all for the Malaysian team, with numerous riders for the squad unable to obtain visas to come to Australia and the team having to scramble to field four riders at the start line.
“It wasn’t super relaxing coming in as we didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Ewart. “Cristian Raileanu, our Moldovan teammate – one of my best mates – he’s a really good climber and when I found out he wasn’t coming, that was a bit of a blow.
“We had a couple of really strong Malaysians too and they couldn’t get visas either. A little bit nervous leading into the race if we’d even have enough riders to start but we’re here and so it all worked out.”
Ewart is one of a growing contingent of Australian cyclists plying their trade in Asia and getting paid to do so, an almost unheard-of rarity among Australian Continental teams. The 25-year-old is now entering his fourth full season racing with Asian teams, with one and a half years at Philippine team 7-Eleven before moving to Malaysian squad Team Sapura Cycling. His top results currently are back to back wins at the Tour de Singkarak.
“The scene there starts early and finishes late so I haven’t really spent a lot of time in Australia the last few years,” said Ewart. “This is my third year with Sapura and fourth year in Asia.”
Team Sapura had the benefit of bringing in fellow Australians Ben Dyball and Marcus Culey last season, with Dyball in particular excelling, winning the Tour de Langkawi and finishing on the podium of the Tour of Qinghai Lake. With Dyball stepping up to the WorldTour with NTT Pro Cycling, Ewart will see more scope for his own ambitions this season.
“Last year was different with Ben,” said Ewart, “he had a few objectives at Langkawi and Qinghai. I was more on the back foot helping Ben at those races, but still got plenty of other opportunities to get a lot of results I was happy with. It all worked out, it was a fun year and hopefully it’s another good season ahead.”
“This is the first race for the year and I’ve really just been training around Newcastle by myself for two months. I felt fit coming in, originally we had Tour of Hainan after this and that was a race I was hoping to go well at. Unfortunately, it got cancelled. I just wanted to make the most out of this week.”
With the Chinese race of Tour of Hainan cancelled due to the outbreak of coronavirus, Ewart’s long-term plans for 2020 are thrown out a bit, with little certainty around the medical emergency.
“Coronavirus sounds like it’s mostly affecting China, which should mostly affect the races at the end of the season,” said Ewart. “Who knows. There will lots of other races in Asia, hopefully I can go well in Taiwan and Tour of Turkey will be my next big goal.”
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger